Cracking the door of grace and joy.
I’ve been staring at this blank screen with the cursor blinking for the last half hour. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve thoughtfully pressed these keys to form words that conveyed what’s been going on in my world, so forgive me if I’m a little rusty.
The road less traveled
If I had to choose any words to describe this past year, Jason Isbell would bring it home with eight of them.
Last year was a son of a bitch.
— Jason Isbell, Hope the High Road
To clarify, I don’t mean the above in a derogatory, angry way. There were many, many good moments in 2017.
I mean it more in the manner of someone who just finished a half-marathon. Only, it wasn’t just 13.1 miles. It was 13.1 miles that included the need to wade through a river, climb a mountain and dodge some bears in order to cross the finish line.
The pride you feel for crossing that finish line is insurmountable, but it doesn’t come without a nod to the obstacles you had to face to get there.
It is the easiest way for me to dive into my reflection of where I’ve been this year, and how it laid the foundation for where I’m going.
Making a way in the wilderness.
When we took office in July, I marked the occasion with a passage from Isaiah.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
— Isaiah 43:19
In July, I equated this to God saying, “Here, hold my beer and watch this.” And, boy did He.
Before July, my brain was constantly moving in 12 different directions with a handful of projects. Getting home from work was just an opportunity to work on other things.
I didn’t stop for very long to really soak up anything. I vividly remember wrapping up one special event in February, only to immediately begin working on another for April.
January through June included a series of checklists and meetings, and my success was determined by how many items I could cross off and how many more projects I could sign up for. Looking back, I’m not sure I even celebrated the completion of anything. I just felt relief.
I was always surrounded by people, but I wasn’t present.
Now? The days are long, and I often walk through the door only to eat and collapse into bed.
Because of the work we are doing, I crave moments that allow me to be still. And in its entirety, it has forced me to settle into the silence and reflect in the stillness.
It has also opened my eyes to truly valuing the time I have with people who love and invest in me.
In a blink, God used the most insane time in my life as an opportunity to be face to face with things I needed to do something about.
It’s not a secret that I ushered in 2017 with heartbreak and a hefty chip on my shoulder. I’ve not mourned that relationship in a very long time; but in the midst of my new normal, I’ve really struggled with the “why” side of things.
I’ve also been a little too nostalgic for the job I held before this one. Because while I love-love the challenge of this job and the role we get to play in our city’s story, I do miss the simplicity of a life less complicated.
A few weeks ago, I found myself re-reading over that same verse in Isaiah. But this time, I read it with the one before it.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
— Isaiah 43:18–19
I wholeheartedly believe that we are presented with His words when we need them most. And in the midst of me trying to diagnose “why” for the remnants of heartbreak I didn’t understand or how life used to be, He basically told me to stop.
I’m a rule follower at best, so I’ve stopped. And, just like that… I feel like the doors of grace and joy have been cracked.
Grace for the moments unmerited favor is the only way I’m getting through the day and joy for the days that are ahead. And as we move into 2018, I’m claiming both of those words as mine.
Because if 2017 could be used to teach me what it means for God to make a way in the wilderness, the next chapter can only include what it means to truly understand grace and joy.
In case you’re curious… I’m still holding God’s beer. And, he’s still doing new things.